Let’s see: 1 inch equals 2.54 centimeters, so 1 centimeter equals…hmm…
Whatever happened to that great push to fully implement the metric system of measurement in the United States? I was only an elementary school student in the Seventies, yet I was not immune to the controversy surrounding some contemporary educational issues. There was the backlash against New Math, for example, as parents questioned the relevance of learning abstract mathematical concepts to the computational competency of their children. The use of phonics instruction still annoyed those who remembered becoming perfectly good readers without repeatedly breaking down words into their phonetic components. I was dimly aware of these debates, but the hot issue that really got my attention was the impending rise and dominance of the metric system.
As a child, this major societal shift was presented to me as an inevitability, and I perceived a menacing future. There would be no use resisting, it was implied. It wouldn’t matter if you expressed a preference for the customary system or voiced an objection. Well, you better learn to like it, because it’s coming! By the time we were adults, we could expect grocery store shelves filled with canned goods packaged by the gram, gas stations selling liters of gas, and car speedometers indicating kilometers per hour. I was apprehensive. Just the sight of the fraction 5/9 in the Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion formula made me uneasy.
Unfortunately, performing cumbersome system conversions seemed to be the extent of the educational effort to make the metric system relevant to our everyday lives. No wonder so many of us developed a prejudice against a measurement method that is preferred by nearly everyone else in the world. Read More